Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown’s Storied Culture of Encounter

Pope Francis has recently urged us to build a “culture of encounter.” He warns against an inward-looking culture that is closed off to the adventure and beauty of life. Furthermore, he believes that this self-referential culture eventually “gets sick.”

Conversely, Francis advocates that a culture of encounter is one that is based upon solidarity and personal relationships. It is this culture that allows us to be truly loving and compassionate to those around us.
Finally, the culture of encounter is one that goes out to the “peripheries.” The peripheries, as Francis explains, are those on the margins — the refugees and migrants, those afflicted by injustice and persecution, the lonely and outcast, the sick and the poor.

The outward drive toward these margins, of course, is characteristic of the Jesuit tradition that Francis personifies. St. Francis Xavier, for example, went to the ends of the earth to encounter those on the periphery, and our very own Fr. Andrew White (the namesake of White-Gravenor Hall) followed Xavier’s example when coming to the new world in 1634.

This culture of encounter animates the spirit of Georgetown. Following the Ignatian tradition, our community goes out into the world working for solidarity, peace and love. One of the greatest fruits of this spirit is the pro-life movement at Georgetown, which stems from the heart of our Catholic and Jesuit call to be men and women for others.

A pro-life culture is integral to a culture of encounter, as it brings us out of ourselves and into communion with those around us, such as the mother and her child, a social worker helping a young woman at a crisis pregnancy center or young people collectingvital supplies for mothers in need.

Our university has a rich, pro-life legacy, one that personifies this culture of encounter that moves even beyond the gates of campus.

The Northwest Pregnancy Center was founded by Georgetown students and alumni in 1981 for the sole purpose of caring for and encountering women in need of support and love.

On campus, students have established the Pregnancy Research Forum, which provides answers, support and aid to students who are pregnant. Members of the student body also team up several times throughout the semester for “diaper drives,” delivering hundreds of diapers to the Northwest Center for mothers and children in need.

Cardinal John O’Connor, perhaps America’s greatest defender of the beauty of life, received his doctorate from Georgetown in 1970 and was no doubt inspired by the Ignatian drive for justice and love, which is summarized in his episcopal motto: “There can be no love without justice.”

Indeed, Cardinal O’Connor thought constantly about justice and love for both the mother and the unborn.

Finally, this culture of encounter is seen most clearly in the Cardinal O’Connor Conference, the nation’s largest student-run, pro-life conference.
After attending and serving the conference for three years, I am constantly overwhelmed by the joy of all who participate. It is a joy that is rooted in a love and openness to the beauty of life that constantly surrounds us.

At this year’s conference I realized that the center of our pro-life movement on campus is not protest and anger, but rather, love, joy andfriendship.

This brief sketch of Georgetown’s pro-life legacy captures the university’s spirit, a spirit that is rooted both in the Jesuit tradition and the culture of our student body. We are people of love and joy, constantly seeking to serve others both on campus and beyond.

We follow the initiative of Pope Francis and seek to build a culture of encounter – a campus of love — that will hopefully keep in mind the words of Cardinal O’Connor and defend justice for the millions of defenseless children that are denied the beauty and adventure of life each year.


Louis Cona is a senior in the College.

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